Cowboy builders face new law

| 16/10/2014

(CNS): The government is taking aim at cowboy builders and has announced plans to review the builder’s law which was passed more than seven years ago by the previous PPM administration but which was never implemented. Premier Alden McLaughlin said the legacy of Hurricane Ivan has left an array of contractors in Cayman some of which are not up to scratch and despite significant numbers of unemployed locals in the industry there are more than 2000 active permits in the sector. In an effort to clamp down on the many infractions the revised bill will require builders to demonstrate their ability and to be licensed in their area of expertise. 

The premier said that there was a proliferation of construction companies after the 2004 hurricane by people who knew little or nothing about building, as he delivered his address at the recent Chamber legislative lunch.

“This was and is still possible because all that is required to become a building contractor in Cayman is a Trade and Business Licence,” he said, adding that many of these small building firms hold numerous work-permits. According to immigration there are currently 2091 active permits in the industry.

Some of these firms, he said, operate without paying pension, health insurance or other benefits and engage in other serious employment law and immigration infractions.

“They are able to underbid companies that comply with the statutory requirements.Others don't operate at all, but simply farm out their work permit holders. The result is that there are currently some 2,091 work permits held for construction workers at a time when a number of Caymanian tradesmen and labourers are unemployed. Contrary to common belief, the vast majority of these permits are not held by the large construction companies, but by smaller operators,” he added.

McLaughlin also said that there has been public concern about the quality of workmanship by contractors and cases where customers are left with incomplete or poor quality projects.

“This is in part because many contractors don't practice within their expertise. Often their inexperience in project and construction management leads to a mismanaged job and a consumer that is out of pocket,” the premier said.

Having consulted with the various building contractors' groups, he revealed that government is moving forward with amendments to the 2007 law, which will be returned to the LA.

He said in future builders will need to demonstrate their ability to get a license to practice in their specific area of expertise.

“It is expected that this law will reduce the number of unqualified contractors in the market and the abuse of work permits thus creating more opportunities for Caymanians.

With government depending on a catalogue of private sector developments as well as the five public sector capital projects it hopes to get off the ground during this administration Cayman will need to improve the regulation of the industry to ensure local people benefit from this anticipated new phase of major development.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Alden, how many illegally built structures have you or the responsible minister for planning ordered to be pushed down??? You may have good intentions with the new law but unfortunately you are already ignoring the existing laws, so what good is a new law going to do????

    • Anonymous says:

      You just wait and find out.

      Why dont you be a man and come forward and say where these illegal built structures are??

      We have a planning department with a  Director who is responsible for all building structures on this Island. Why we always have to blame the politicins they can only do so much. Go visit the Director. Have a word with him.

      • Anonymous says:

        because the planning board is put in place for a reason! Ask them how many people appear in front of them AFTER the fact and then go to appeals. The law is there for a reason. If the application was not granted and the building or whatever still went up, it should be pushed down. Simple!

      • Anonymous says:

        What a stupid comment! How am I supposed to know whether someone has obtained planning approval or not! Surely the planning dept and planning board know whether someone has circumvented the law and built without permission………..

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes surely the planning dept is not as bad as everyone who has had to use them knows they are..  Its just another Governent run joke.  They are the biggest obstacle construction has to face on the island.  Bigger than doing the job in the first place.  And typical of most Caymanian government run offices.   They don't know or care about thier own laws and do as little work as possible.

  2. Anonymous says:

    We had someone do some work on our house. They did a horrible job, we refused to pay the final installment. The contractor was apologetic and said that he was just unable to keep good worskmen bla, bla. I assume this was the case because he probably treated them like slaves. Anyway, not my problem, his company so his problem. We refused to pay the last installment and were chased for years for the final payment which we never made. At that point we would have been happy to go to court as we had taken pictures of the poor quality of work performed. Guess what, we never made it to court because eventually the contractor realized that we weren't just going to take his shit laying down! Don't let yourself be bullied around by these companies!

    • Anonymous says:


      You are probably one of those that believe that the grass root caymanian bulders are going to rip you off.

      Far from the truth, look around and see how poor these local contractors  are. We have never had these rip off dummies builders until here a late.

      My advice, seek a good builder, dont fall for the cheapest price. Cayman is expensive and you cant build a decent home for 100.00 a square foot anymore, that is total madness.

      Yes your friend might tell you she got it for that price, but she not tell you she had to hire someone else to finish the building.


      • Anonymous says:

        No, has nothing to do with being ripped off, but if half of my stuff is already scratched up and damaged because the workers don't give a shit about someone else's property and throw everything down whenever and however and can't make the effort to cover walls or windows or floors to protect the surfaces, I am for sure not going to pay full price of that kind of work!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am sorry to say, but some people are doing this to themselves as they go for the cheapest bid. Even Government has been (and probably still is) guilty of this when they pick their contractors!  If a contractor can manage to underbid everyone else, than they are able to do this because (a) they don't know what they are doing, (b) they rip off their employees by not paying proper wages and benefits, (c) they are planning on cutting corners to make up for the low bid (d) they plan on making up for the low bid by charging extra for "ad-ons" which other contractors included in their bids. Also, it always boggles my mind that people think it is perfectly justified that a lawyer, banker, doctor charges hundreds of dollars per hour, yet they hackle with a contractor over whether the construction guys should be paid $4 or $5 per hour! Those people built your house that you want to be in possibly for the rest of your life. Sometimes you really do get back out what you put in!

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about those QS firms, you know, the big international ones, who are also acting like Contractors instead of a Quantity Surveyors?  I know of one in particular who regularly invite bidgs on behalf of their client,  and when the contractors submit their bids, this QS firm, having got all the contractors rates, go to Client and undercut the contractors and put in a bid themselves to manage the project.  Talk about lack o ethics and conflict of interest.  This QS firm did a condo project and to this day, the owners have a lot of maintenance issues.  That is because the QS firm is not trained in construction skill and know-how themselves. Rather, they hire subcontractors and rely on them to do the work, and in some cases end up with shoddy results and building defects.   So I hope the Builders Law will address QS firm acting outside of their T & B license and taking on construction work that belong to TRAINED Contractors.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you. There seems to be a trend of late of QS doing projects on the cheap. Who are these people?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just another example of the underground economy resulting from the failed work permit regime. The permit renters in the construction and other sectors are as bad as the hovel/room renters.

    And like others have noted many of these "economic underminers" are civil servants running their own businesses while collecting a salary off the backs of the taxpayers.


  6. Anonymous says:



    Similar law for those wanting to sit in the LA no expertise or qualifications! Can we at least expect a Bachelors Degree from our law makers

    • Anonymous says:

      I can see where you're coming from but there are many reasons why no such requirement exists anywhere in the free world (that I am aware of). Extending things – quite logically – what about needing to have certain qualifications to be allowed to vote, like being literate, for example? Or the right to become a parent (wealthy enough/intelligent enough/responsible enough)? Just giving you and those who (worryingly) agree with you something to mull over!

      • Anonymous says:

        Just to clarify – if needed – my comment (10:01) was in response to the suggestion re. needing to possess an academic qualification (22.38) to qualify to stand for office. Thank you.

    • Anonymous says:

      And what qualifications do the various Planning Inspectors in the field possess, as distinct from the planning administration?

      Last I heard is some of them do not have an Associate Degree but are trying to dictate to other highly qualified professionals such as registered Architects. Tail is wagging the dog I say.

      This seems like a bandaid on a problem that requires major surgery. The whole system needs a top down overhaul.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I hope the law does not stop Caymanians who can and want to building their own homes and investments can do so and not have to contract and pay for a contractor because of his law.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Does ANYONE else see the irony here. It's government employees ( ie the government) that run a whole bunch of these permit pulling fiascos. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    And while we are at it please note that the implementation of this Builders Law will require a whole lot more government workers to implement and to enforce. I thought the government had no money and there was a moratorium on hiring and that we should be getting rid of positions through attrition. Did we not just pay a fortune for the EY report which says we must sell, downsize, get rid of and now the Honourable Premier is proposing to bring new laws into effect and have to hire alot more staff. What the hell is going on here – is it only me that sees the problem. Same s….t  different day. When is the madness going to end. They talk the talk but are not walking the walk. Lord help us.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cowboys for true. These guys are also lacking in social skills and generally have poor work ethics. They can come across as intimidating and threatening at times.

    • Anonymous says:

      Uh, what guys?

    • Anonymous says:

      Add to the list all the guys who call themselves Architects Engineers etc.With no degrees or even formal education no professional ethics no conscience… giving the pofessions a bad name because none checks these guy's qualificatins before hiring them. 

    • Anonymous says:

      You hit the nail right on the head. Somelabourers need constant supervision. They seem to have other agendas beside getting on with their work. They do not have respect for the neighborhood they work in. But this is a reflection on the people who choose to hire them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We need a Better Busines Bureau, Angie's List etc.  People have to be warned about local pirate vendors – and they are everywhere!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wonder what our COWBOY politicians will face. Just askin you know

  13. Anonymous says:

    It  would  have  benefited  me greatly had this law been implemented when it was initially  passed  more  than  7  years  ago!    As a single mother, I am of the opinion  that  my  contractor  took  one  look  at  me  and made the unfortunate assumption  that he could take advantage of my lack of construction knowledge to milk me of my money.

    During   the   construction   process,   there  were  many  instances  where  he unsuccessfully  tried  to  use inferior materials and cut corners.  In some cases neither  he  nor  his  workers  had  any  idea  what  they  were doing.  Even the sub-contractors he hired,  in  my  specific  case the electricians, were clueless.  He was relying on his hired help to know what they were doing and it was  evident  that  neither  of  them  was trained or skilled in construction as evidenced in the shoddy workmanship of my home.  I’m pretty sure he googled “how to lay floor tiles” and then felt he was skilled enough to teach his employees.

    If  that  wasn’t  bad  enough, after I received the certificate of occupancy, he tried to bill me with trumped  up  charges  of over $10,000 for work that was agreed on in the initial contract!

    He  and  his company made some pretty incrediblemistakes, but the first mistake he  made was when he thought he could rip me off.  Yes, I am a single mother but no, I am not stupid!

    I  hold a fairly high position at one of the leading companies on the island and after  conferring  with  my  attorneys,  not  one  single penny over the initial contract price was paid by me.  As a matter of fact, his work was so poor and he did  not meet his contractual obligations which resulted in his final payment of 2.5% being retained by me to tidy up his company’s sloppy work.

    I’m  sure  there  a many other stories like mine around the Island, but probably without  the same outcome.  This law in my mind was long overdue and I certainly hope that this time it is implemented

    • Anonymous says:

      Good show you did all the right things I'm glad it worked out well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you take any responsibility for entering into an agreement with someone so unqualified. You should accept about 50% of the blame. Why did you use this person. Did you check references? I think we're. Hearing half the story. The blaming victim side. 

    • Anonymous says:

      What does being a single mother have to do with anything in the course of finding a contractor to build your house. I am a female well-educated high up in my profession as well and probably like you intelligent enough to know when something is not going right when I contract for services.

      Lif it had been me I would've stopped the contractor immediately and fired him from the job not allow him to complete the process especially if I had access to free legal advice. I'm not trying to be a troll here.   I just hate it however as a female professional whenever we use the trite phrase a single mother or something like that in the course of doing day-to-day business we have fought hard and long to be taken seriously as persons and human beings and then we fall back on something as trite as being a mother and single and the helpless female approach

      All consumers need to be proactive regardless of their marital state their sex and whether or not they are parents.  Having said all of the above no doubt the gentleman in question and I use the word gentleman loosely probably did take advantage of you because you were a female but I doubt that the single aspect and the mother aspect of it entered into it and as long as we allow ourselves to not stand up to these people then we will perpetuate The stereotype what you seem all too willing to do.

      There are plenty of small contractors on this island who are reputable and have good ethics and good standards and are honest and reliable. The simplest process before engaging a contractor and committing to a contract would be asking for professional references and checking those out it is a small island people do talk all it takes is simply asking for some references contacting the references and ask them how that particular business performed their services that's called  being  proactive.

  14. Anonymous says:

    About time this measure is taken. Though, licenced labour is a part of ensuring building quality control, consideration must also be given to good quality building materials and machiner. An unscrupulous contractor might appease the labour aspect, but might cut back on materials to achieve the bottom line/profit.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Here's a suggestion: simply change the Local Companies (Control) Law (which after all was enacted to attract foreign investment in the 1970s and is now out of date in that respect) so that certain on-island businesses like retail, and trades like garden services, builders, car washes, plumbers, electricians, etc, have to be 100% Caymanian owned and controlled. In one move you promote Caymanian business, abolish "fronting" (and remember it's those Caymanian crooks who engage in serial fronting that cause the problem in the first place) and prevent work from being sucked up by illegal businesses that are effectively owned and controlled by foreigners.   

    • Garfield says:

      What nonsense. Having just had a place built by a 100% CaymanIan building developer let me assure you that some of the biggest riip off artists on this island are Caymanian building developers. The Caymanian developers utilise the absolutely cheapest tradesmen they can find and get away with and all of the tradesmen on our site were NOT / NOT Caymanian. So much for Caymanians supporting Caymanians. In the building development game on this island, the only thing that matters is PROFIT, PROFIT & PROFIT. A Better Business Bureau is really needed on these Islands to weed out these bad Caymanian apples and make the public aware of what is really going on. Only in this way willthese people be put out of business.

      • Anonymous says:

        21:15, very true and most of these Mickey Mouse Contracting Businesses are owned by Governemt Leaders and other Civil Servants.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Needed long time!! Thanks PPM…..IT would have saved me a court litigation case…..A fw years ago I had to take my contractor to court in order to recover monies he had spent on uis colledge tuition instread of my addition to my house?


    Perhaps a blacklist for beware caymanians to review..


  17. Jacob McT says:

    Good job Alden. Please take action. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    Why is the Premier so worried about who is paying health and pension in the construction industry. There are laws in place to ensure that health, pension and other benefits are paid to employees the trouble is the law is only there for a select few. This is the job of the health commission and the department of labour and pensions. But……………. we all know what happens when you go at the wrong people. I support this law however the real issue in this country is enforcement officers find it difficult to carry out the mandate of the law to EVERYONE and not just a select few. As the Premier says alot of small businesses are not complying and this is true but there are a number of big businesses in construction that do not comply and dont you dare go at them especially if they are big  investors – their money is like gold no matter where it comes from or how they conduct business – because they may just "pull out" as some like to threaten every time they are told they have to comply with the laws.




    • Anonymous says:

      Yes laws that are constantly being broken and the Government is being made to look as if they are some sort of criminals when others break the law.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh jeseus christ If it not hard enough allready .

    You want to go and open that can of worms

    . I build sand castles and your going to tell me how to do it.

    and make sure i know how to build outhouses up to code?

    whats next your going to come to my church and make sure we are praying to god the proper way 

  20. Anonymous says:

    Alden needs to be careful with how he approaches this as it has been well known that the large construction firms don't want the competition from smaller contractor firms including the small architects and have been trying to get rid of them for quite sometime. It is true that since Hurricane Ivan pride in workmanship has decreased however, it is not only found in the small construction firms. There are many who have purchased places in large developments managed by large construction firms where there has been poor quality of work and required installations such as ice and water shield on the roof not installed just overall many short cuts made but somehow have no problem obtaining co's. The main problem is the large scale developers rule and control Planning via the board and double standards apply. It is because of these double standards customers end up spending more than expected, get frustrated and simply abandon the project. The real question  which has to be asked why is it close to impossible to build a 1400 sq ft house for less than CI$250,000. This is the reason why those with incomes less than CI$4,000 per month have difficulties finding or building affordable housing. The Planning Inspectors apply their double standards and preferences during the inspections and the board apply another set of double standards. This is not a new problem and has been ongoing for several years. Even former employees of the Planning Department have left because of this same reason. Look at the numbers if it were not for Dart development in Cayman over the past 4-5 years would be next to non-existent in a marketplace where mortgage rates are at the lowest they have been in many years. The solution is not simply targetingthe small contractors as there is a market for them because not everyone can afford Arch & Godfrey to build their house. Take a real and honest look at what is happening in the Planning Department and then truly apply the required solutions i.e. getting rid of the senior civil servants getting money under the table and the Planning board made up of those with only their self interests.

    • Anonymous says:

      I need help here.

      Which large, international construction company, built an extension to a large private school here, and when there was heavy rains, the ground floors which were supposedly cast re-enforced concrete, rose up in broken pieces, and neer any re-enforcing steel to be seen!

      So much for building standards, so let us not be dumping on the smaller contractors as if they are all "cowboys". It's about the so called quality controls that should be in place and enforced in ALL cases. What price the quantity surveyors, building inspectors and planning dept. technical people? Maybe if they were all doing a professional duties, there might not be a need for yet another law which may not be enforced like all others in the past.

      Why is it that we always see our way out of the problem as writing another law? Do we ever consider enforcing existing laws and standards to get results, no! So yet another law gets written, which after a few years, will not be enforced like all others before it.

      And so the cycle continues.

  21. Anonymous says:

    As an not licensed contractor I fix the mnistakes of the ones with a license.

    I don't have a license, because my rates are affordable. I prefer to give the money to my customers instead of politicians that invest in casinos.

    The REAL solution for this problem is a court where unhappy customers can file a complain against bad business.

    Unfortunately, that won't happen . . .

    • Anony-me says:

      Small claims court already exists in Cayman. (Want to file a big claim, sorry, that can't be made cheap.)

  22. Anonymous says:

    good idea in principle…but its just more ppm red tape…

    how about doing something that will stimulate the economy??????

  23. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone else get the irony in closing down all the many terrible Caymanian run wanna be a construction business that are run and for the most part hire locals who no one else would and then throw in the part about helping unemployed Cymanians at the same time??

  24. Anonymous says:

    Don't bother with the law unless you are actually planning to enforce it! Are you doing anything about all those known companies who haven't paid pension and health insurance? Their shop should be closed until all outstanding bills have been settled!

  25. Anonymous says:

    The whole planning law needs an overhaul. People do any sort of constructions without getting planning approval prior to construction and then apply for approval afterwards, especially when they know that planning approval would have been denied. Then they go to appeals where the case sits for another few years. At the end, they got what they want as nobody will come and knock down their structure, and for all of that they pay a very small fine! Why would anybody doing any sort of construction (be it a whole house, adding a pool, a wall, a second story) follow proper procedure? It is just easier to get a slap on the wrist afterwards. Please, this needs to stop!

  26. Anonyanmous says:

    Good, it is about time, far too many contractors running around that don't even know how to write a proper estimate or create an invoice.